Wood Needs Holiday Help Processing Loss

Dear Vicki: My partner Jillie and I have been together for eight years and have lived together for the past five years. This summer, our house was damaged beyond repair in a storm, so we have moved into an apartment with the small amount of our household goods that were salvageable. The holidays are coming and I know it’s going to be a very different year, but my usual optimism is failing me. I used to love decorating and hosting family and friends, but this year I just want to ignore the whole season. Jillie is a Metal/Earth and has been clear she’d like to have some kind of festivities. I’m a Wood/Earth, so should want that, too, but I’m just not feeling it. All I feel is exhausted, not particularly supported by Jillie, and a complete lack of enthusiasm for the whole season. What can I do? Signed: Sad in the South

Dear Sad: I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. It’s always difficult to move forward after a tragedy, and the holidays can be an especially challenging time to do this. The memories of what has been lost can haunt us like Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Past, making current holidays hard to imagine. This will be especially hard for you and Jillie because you both have a good amount of Earth, which is where home and family sit. What Jillie has going for is her Metal energy which makes it possible for her to detach from expectations regarding the holidays. Sadly, it isn’t going to be as easy for you. Expectations sit smack dab in Wood and I think it’s your Wood that’s a major factor in how you feel.

You and Jillie have faced a significant loss together and even though you both have a lot of Earth, how you process that loss and move forward will be very different. Jillie’s Earth is a secondary to her Metal and relates to it on the Nurturing Cycle. So even though she was probably just as devastated as you were by the loss, her Earth fed her Metal and made it easier for her to let go of things. This heightened Metal would also long for a traditional acknowledgement of the holiday season since traditions matter to Metals. You, on the other hand, also have Earth as your secondary, but your primary element is Wood. These two elements relate on the Controlling Cycle. In the face of the loss, your Wood probably rose up to manage the chaos and in the process took down some of your Earth energy. Less Earth energy for you means less connection to Earthy things like holidays.

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Nurture vs. Control: Nurturing is Best, Right?

Dear Vicki: Your recent posts about how the five elements can feel controlling to us in relationships were pretty good; I learned a lot. But they left me with a question: Should I just avoid close relationships with people who are on my Controlling Cycle? As a Wood, I’m guessing that I’ll always feel uncomfortable around Metals, even balanced ones, so maybe I should go for relationship with the elements that sit on my Nurturing Cycle. That has to create better relationships, doesn’t it? Signed: Catching On in Connecticut

Dear Catching On: Thank you for your kind words about my blog posts. I’m very glad you are learning a lot, and I’m even gladder that you have written in with your excellent question. There is so much that goes into creating relationships that I fear you will be in big trouble if you chose only to relate to Water or Fire people (the elements that sit on your Nurturing Cycle). First, you will probably be unable to accomplish this because some relationships are dictated by our occupations. Unless you work by yourself or own the place where you work, you will likely have little say regarding co-worker selection. Second, when love strikes, I suspect it can’t be relied on to honor your intention regarding Nurturing Cycle relationships. And that’s as it should be; love often provides our richest growth opportunities. Third, and most importantly, the whole point of understanding how the different elements interact with each other is to facilitate our ability to get along with anyone.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, please remember that when you understand what’s important to each of the elements, what motivates them, what they need to be happy, what upsets them and why, you have at your fingertips all that you need to get along with them. And while as a Wood you think you may never feel completely comfortable with Metals, I will respectfully disagree. I’m a primary Wood married to a Metal and it’s a fantastic relationship! Do I have to remind myself from time to time that his basic outlook on the world is different from mine? Absolutely! But so often that difference ends up helping me. I’ll give you an example.

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Why Does She Fall Out of Love in the Fall?

Dear Vicki: Jim and I started dating 16 months ago. I believe he is an Earth/Water and I love being a Fire – it really helps me be a good teacher. Summers with Jim have been a dream; my Fire flares up and I feel free, funny, and in love with everything. But when school starts, I throw myself into teaching and our relationship takes a 180-degree turn. When that happens, Jim tries even harder to make me happy, but I want to focus on teaching my kids, so feel like pushing him away. In the Fall, I don’t have the time or energy to keep us entertained and really don’t want to owe him for all the wonderful things he does for me while I’m teaching. I know he’s just trying to be nice, so I don’t really understand my intense, angry reaction towards him. Also, Jim is a great artist, but doesn’t seem to take his career seriously. He always has work, but is so laid back about things that sometimes I want to jump in and manage his career. I do love him and want it to work between us for a long time, but why do I stop loving him every Fall? Signed: Frustrated Fire

Dear Frustrated Fire: It is absolutely possible for you to have a long-term relationship with Jim, but you will need to be mindful of your energies and manage them well. As a Fire, you know that you love connecting and having fun with people, but your Fire energy doesn’t necessarily need for those connections to last very long. On the other hand, Jims primary Earth will want lasting, long-term relationships. The good news for you is that long-term relationships between a Fire and an Earth can feel happy and natural for both people. It’s a Nurturing Cycle relationship where Fire feeds Earth. In nature, an earthen hearth is the perfect structure to hold and support fire allowing it to burn stable and steady, something that fire doesn’t often do left to its own devices. As an Earth, Jim can provide this gentle structure for you and your Fire.

One of the reasons you feel so happy and in love during the summer is that summer is your season. During summer everyone is a little more Fire as we loosen the structure of work, take vacations, and devote more time to play. Life is fun! The two summers you’ve been with Jim, you have had a ready companion to hold your Fire. I suspect you have actually been able to be more of your Fiery self your two summers with Jim because he has held the space for you. That would make your summers with Jim seem very much like a dream. But summer can’t last forever, and I think part of the problem you’re having in your relationship is the advent of Fall and the energy it brings. Autumn is Metal time and it calls us to slow down and turn inside. For you as a teacher, it also asks you to get serious about your profession. To do this, I think you allow your secondary element to influence you more than you know, and I have little doubt that your secondary is Wood.

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Control a Red Hot Issue for This Metal

Dear Vicki: Your last blog post about the positive aspects of control was really interesting, but like you said, having Earth as the controlling element is hitting the jackpot. Earths are gentle and kind. I’m not so lucky – I’m a primary Metal, which means Fire is my control. Too much time around Fire people is hard on me; they aren’t sweet and “guiding” like Earths. They are much harsher. How can control be a good thing when the element controlling you destroys you? Signed: Melted Metal

Dear Melted Metal: You are one of several emails I received regarding last week’s blog. There is definitely a bit of control envy out there. Everyone wants Earth on their Controlling Cycle! And I do understand. As a Wood, interactions with Metals, my control element, can feel tough even when their “pruning” is well intentioned. But there is great wisdom in the Five Elements model! Think of it: A sweet Earth wouldn’t have a chance of controlling a rampaging Wood because Wood has way too much structure for an Earth to oppose. Instead, it’s Metal, the most structured of all elements, that controls the excessive Wood. But while Earth cannot control Wood, that Wood structure is perfect for helping stabilize the over-energized Earth. Landslides are impossible on a well-wooded slope.

As a Metal, nothing stands up to your structure, but when you’re in a place of excessive Metal, more structure is the last thing you need. What you really need is to release some structure and the heat of Fire is the perfect way to bring flexibility to Metal. In truth, no element destroys another; they just bring balance. Fire decreases the too structured Metal and gives it flexibility. Metal prunes the over-expanded Wood to keep it from toppling. Wood anchors and prevents the Earth from sliding. And just to complete the cycle, Water prevents Fire from burning too hot and destroying itself.

The brilliance of the Five Elements model is that the element controlling you is just what you need to address an over-energized state. But this is still fairly abstract, so let’s look at a few real life examples for the Controlling Cycle relationships not covered last week. We’ll start with your Controlling Cycle relationship first.

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With the Five Elements, Control Can Be Good

Dear Vicki: I’m familiar with the Five Elements model and how the elements keep each other in balance by either giving energy or taking it away. And in the model, that makes sense. But when that gets applied to people, I don’t understand how controlling someone can be good. My husband is an Earth and I’m a Water, so this means his Earth controls my Water. But I can tell you from personal experience, things don’t feel that good sometimes. Can you please give some real life examples of Water/Earth Controlling Cycle relationships that are positive? Thank you. Signed: Confused About Control

Dear Confused: This is an excellent question! Most people have a negative reaction to the idea of being controlled and that’s certainly come up in several of these blog posts over the years. Cutting something back doesn’t seem good because in our Western culture we often live by the maxim, “Bigger is better!” But in the East, where the Five Elements model originated thousands of years ago, a condition of too much is just as bad as a condition of too little. Said another way, inherent in the Five Elements model is the truth that bigger is usually not better. Instead, when there is too much of any element, it is necessary and good for the whole to reduce that element to help retain balance. And in the abstraction of the model, the element is happy to be reduced so that the whole can remain balanced.

When applying this to people, we usually don’t like being reduced, especially in the West with our “more is always better than less” approach to life. But still, when we are stressed, there are times that someone stepping in to guide, protect, cool down, relax, or counterbalance us is good. And these are all aspects of what one element can do for another in a Controlling Cycle relationship.

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